(Chapter 12)

Peter didn't remember going back to his room except for a few words from his wife and the nurse and then waking up some hours later in the bed again. The lights were dimmed low and he realized it must be evening but when? He looked at the clock and saw it was just after 7 PM as he eased himself to a sitting position and turned to his right to see his wife sleeping quietly on the sofa. He wanted to walk over and curl up with her but knew he couldn't with all the IVs and monitors connected to him. Peter decided to be content watching her sleep from afar. He thought about how badly things could have gone and then about everything that had gone right despite the odds. Neal had played a significant part in preventing his wife from being hurt or worse, killed. Peter had been able to initiate the help of Alex and Mozzie because of his partner and get his wife and friend back in one piece.

He sighed inwardly, closing his eyes again thinking about how this had all started. The argument with Neal, although significant at the time, now seemed so much less important. The con had been through enough torment to be told he was just a tool to be used and not trusted. Neal had done wrong but now that Peter had been there, he could understand the young man's motives. He had wanted to discuss what he had said, not meaning to hurt or demean his partner's importance but being angry at the time by his immaturity and lack of forethought. His choice of words had been poor at best no matter what Neal had done.

Peter sighed again, this time openly, turning to see if his wife had woken up but she hadn't, still curled up on the sofa comfortably. He wanted to be by her side but he would have to wait a bit longer to freely do that again as he curled up facing her and slowly went back to sleep.

()()()

It was just under a week since he'd been readmitted that Peter was released and Neal was conscious enough to be considered for release. He was still pretty weak but healing quickly according to the doctor. Peter went to visit his friend, finding the younger man staring off across the room to his right out the window. It wasn't open but maybe that wasn't the point of his staring. Peter gave a soft knock watching as his friend's head turned to look at him, blue eyes brighter than they had been that first visit. Neal gazed at him curiously, a hint of smile on his lips.

"Hey, Peter." Neal adjusted himself to sit up some, motioning for Peter to enter the room if not sit. The agent nodded, walking over with a slight hint of physical discomfort as he made his way around and sat down. Neal's left arm was still in a sling from his shoulder injury / gunshot wound but he was wearing a loose tee now over his bandaged ribs. He had more color to his face, eyes and cheeks less sunken in as Peter felt relief at seeing his friend and partner doing so much better. He suddenly realized Neal was smirking at him.

"Have I passed the visual examination? June and El were doing the same thing yesterday. I'm ok, Peter." He tried to sound lighthearted but Peter could hear the tenseness behind those words. Neal was still pretty beat up beyond the physical from his wounds. They all were. It would take a while to get over the psychological effects of what had happened to them. For some reason he wondered how Mozzie was dealing. It was an odd thought but of all the people to react badly, he'd think Mozz would be the first. The little guy had been nearly suffocated and killed and yet he went and rescued his friend without any thought. Someone touched his hand and he blushed seeing Neal looking at him with a questioning glance.

"Sorry, just thinking about stuff. Things that happened... things said. I..." He paused trying to find the words to apologize for the past that had been swallowed in the present mess. If not for Keller maybe things would have turned out nicer but who knows. Not to say this would make everything ok because they had to deal with it as a group but... it had proven to everyone that they were friends and family. Neal respected him and loved both his wife and him enough to sacrifice himself for them but he shouldn't have had to. The means to an end should have been something so much less violent and life changing. He'd never ask Neal to give up his life for his own if it was at all possible to find another way. He always hoped there would be such an option.

"Peter... I'm sorry." Neal's voice woke him from his thoughts making him look more closely at his friend and into those bright blue eyes. They were shiny with tears he thought, his friend looking suddenly so very vulnerable and guilty.

"I jumped the gun... I... got you involved with Keller and you didn't need to be. I..." Neal's voice was shaking as he spoke and tried to find other ways to deprecate himself to his friend. Peter was unable to say anything a moment as his own guilt took his voice from him. Finally he held a hand up to Neal's lips and gave him a stern look, the younger man blinking back at him with those shiny blue eyes.

"I should have never said what I said to you, Neal. It started this whole mess off. You did..." He hesitated in speaking but held up a hand to keep the young man silent as he finished.

"You did something very wrong when you went after Fowler. You lied to me, faked a case file and used your friendships in a poor manner... but I'm only your partner and friend. I'm not your father so I can't make you do anything you don't want to. I'd like to but you're an adult. You can and are able to make your own decisions and I should remember that more often than I do. If I'd given you that information sooner maybe... I hope you would have used it more wisely and let me help you. I failed YOU, Neal but we both failed in our friendship. You're not to blame. Nobody is." Peter sighed deeply, standing up and pacing the room till he stood by the window and was staring through the thin curtains at the hazy scenery. He heard Neal shift behind him on the bed but didn't turn right away. He was feeling too emotional to react anymore. It had been a long week for all of them and they had needed to lay out their cards and speak.

"Peter?" Neal's voice was almost forlorn as he spoke but there was something else there as Peter turned to respond. He saw a certainty of spirit; A determination that hadn't been there before.

"Thank you. I don't think I ever told you that before. Thank you." He didn't turn his glance or eyes away, keeping them on Peter who smiled and walked back over, their hands touching.

"No... Thank you, Neal. You helped save my wife and myself." He kept his eyes on the younger man, wanting to say more but feeling like he'd said enough when he saw the relaxed manner of Neal's shoulders and face. He laughed, thinking of something as Neal wiped at his eyes and gave him a funny glance.

"What's so funny? These aren't crocodile tears, Peter." He almost looked insulted but it was more teasing than real. The agent shook his head as he wiped a few tears from his own eyes.

"El... she's always talking about feelings and such. She'd have loved to see this." He continued to chuckle to himself till Neal joined in and soon they were just quietly laughing about it until all the stress seemed to leave the room and they were silent again.

"Of course, you know what would happen if she ever found out about this, Peter." Neal's tone was kind of conspiratorial. Peter arched a brow up in curious gaze waiting for the younger man to continue. Neal just leaned over and spoke quietly.

"Word gets around two men had a heart to heart... a real one..." Neal moved away giving Peter that look of incredulousness. Peter oohed.

"Yeah... definitely. If it ever comes up, all I did was hit you on the shoulder and told you to cowboy up." Peter smiled at his friend with a grin as Neal made a conspiratorial wink back.

"Of course... These aren't tears. I had something in my eye. Look an eyelash is on your finger, Peter." He pointed and Peter looked to see a long thin brown eyelash on the back of his knuckle. He blinked at it nodding as Neal smiled a bit too enthusiastically.

"That's a good excuse but I don't get why you're so happy about it." Peter was about to brush it away when Neal took his hand and stopped him.

"No! You have to make a wish and blow it away." Neal was smiling even more broadly now but Peter was still looking at his knuckle and partner as if at something ridiculous. He shook his head.

"This isn't my birthday nor am I blowing out candles. Wishes..." He was about to brush it away again when Neal kept a hold of his hand.

"Come on... don't be a grouch. You can wish for anything you want." Neal was still smiling, keeping the agent from letting the lash get away. Peter finally sighed and shrugged.

"Fine... so what do I have to do for this 'wish' thing?" He would go along this one time but he felt stupid. Neal grinned and let go of his hand.

"Just think of something you'd like to wish for and then blow it away. That's it." Neal sounded so confident in the act that Peter started to wonder about the young man but he did as he was instructed, closing his eyes and then blowing at the knuckle his breath brushing his skin till he no longer felt the lash opening his eyes to find it gone. He gave another shrug, brushing his hand against his chest as Neal smiled and patted him on the shoulder.

"Was that so hard? I won't ask what you wished for. Bad luck." Neal was grinning that irritatingly confident grin that got on his nerve at times. Peter smirked.

"I wouldn't have told you anyhow. Doesn't matter. It didn't come true... yet. Hey, I'm hungry. I could go pick something up and bring you something. I'm sure you're getting tired of the hospital food." He redirected like a pro but after a moment Neal just squinted at him curiously.

"What do you mean it hasn't come true? What was it exactly that you wished for? Peter... I don't like that glint in your eyes." Neal was sitting up a bit straighter but Peter just kept a straight face without giving much away. He kept his expression blank.

"I was thinking Chinese. What would you like? Dumplings? I know you like them..." Peter didn't get to finish as he felt Neal grab his arm.

"Don't keep me hanging Peter. I have to make an exception, bad luck or not. What did you wish for that didn't come true yet? Tell me!" He was begging like a two year old but Peter just shook his head.

"Your rules, Caffrey. You said don't tell you and I'm not. So shall we get Sesame Chicken maybe some of that won-ton soup?" He kept avoiding the topic watching Neal get more antsy till he finally seemed to give up and answer him.

"Sesame Chicken sounds good... maybe some Orange Chicken and those little crunchy things for the won-ton soup." Neal kept his blue eyes on the agent trying to figure something out but Peter kept his face totally blank as he knew it drove the con crazy.

"Ok. I'll call El. She's at her office. I think she'd like some too. I'll have to see if they have beef broccoli. That's her favorite." Peter stood but paused midway when Neal grasped his sleeve.

"She's ok?" His blue eyes gazed into his with a serious expression for just a moment and he nodded slowly. Neal seemed to relax at the fact she was at work Peter knowing it meant Elizabeth was at least trying to move on as they all were. He was still on administrative leave to heal as was Neal. Hughes said he would let them know when they could come back on.

"I'll be back in about thirty minutes. Rest." He patted the younger man gently on the shoulder before moving around and heading for the door. He had barely opened it when he heard Neal pipe in again.

"I'll be here... Partner." Neal's voice was certain, Peter turning to smile at him. They were partners in every sense of the word but he would never tell his 'partner' what he had wished. He couldn't at least not without getting all teary eyed. I mean guys didn't tell other guys that they wished their friend and partner would be by their side forever. Nope...

(The End)

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Author's Note: Sorry for the delay. This cold really REALLY hit me hard and I was in a fog up till Friday / Saturday. And here's a fun little tidbit: As of this month (having started in March) I have officially written approximately over 1 million 40 thousand words including all the fan fics and NaNoWriMo. Can you say "CRAZY?" Yup. Been a very productively wordy year for moi. Thanks for reading!